Chances are, if you’ve been to Joe Louis Arena in the last 27 years for any Detroit Red Wings’ related event, you have a favorite Budd Lynch-ism that’s currently broadcasting in your head clear as day.
“Last minute of play in this period…”
“The captain, number 19, Steve Y-zerman…”
“Now, please rise for the U.S. National Anthem. May we suggest you remove your hat…”
“A reminder, fans, there is no smoking inside Joe Louis Arena…”
Today, after 95 glorious and unique years on earth, Lynch passed away, motivating us to all remove our hats and bow our heads solemnly for a different reason. If the true measure of living is not the amount of years in your life but life in your years, Lynch surely had a complete resume.
Consider that coaching-wise, Lynch dealt with everyone from Jack Adams to Scotty Bowman and Mike Babcock with Harry Neale in between. On the ice, Lynch called the names of some of the best players in the world. He watched the National Hockey League evolve, from the brash fast style of Gordie Howe and Maurice Richard, through Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Yzerman. He watched the next generation, and called the names of the future like Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
Though everything, he never changed his uniquely calm style. There will never be another public address announcer like Lynch. He was Detroit’s version of Bob Sheppard. Never did you hear him try and fire up the crowd or manufacture emotion while calling a game. Lynch believed the athletes themselves were the show, and he was merely there to do his job of explaining the action for the crowd and the media. In the day in age of the often overzealous arena atmosphere, there’s something to be said about the way Lynch dictated the game. It was like taking a trip back in time to your great-grandfather’s calmer era.
Though he lost his arm during combat in World War II, he never lost his fighting spirit. That was obvious after two separate failed retirement attempts. Thankfully, he never left, as generations of Red Wing rooters learned his story and gained comfort in his familiar voice. Their teams were always different, but Lynch was always there, patiently describing the action. There was heartbreak and dissapointment—Lynch stayed the same. Often times, there was much joy—perhaps Lynch’s voice would rise a tad (think 1997′s “ladies and gentlemen…the Stanley…CUP!”) but he still sounded the same.
For years, Lynch bridged the gap between everything old and new. That was perhaps my favorite memory of the man. I didn’t just love all his familiar sayings; I loved that my grandmother could remember listening to him on the radio when she was growing up. I loved that my dad heard his voice over the loudspeakers going to games in the years before I was born. I loved that I got to know Lynch while I grew up attending games at Joe Louis Arena, too. That’s three generations of tradition, which is the best part of sports.
Now, the Red Wings have the unenviable task of trying to replace another legend. Though age and time has likely eased this particular transition, nobody will ever truly replace Lynch, either. Hopefully, the man filling his seat for good has been well versed in his folksy, calm demeanor which has become the Red Wing way. Everyone will always possess their own unique style, but there are certainly some must’s in Hockeytown P.A. 101 thanks to Lynch. Don’t accentuate names. Don’t whoop up the crowd unnecessarily. And, for the love of everything good, don’t get too excited about a power play. Let the crowd do that on their own.
As everything continues to radically change around Hockeytown, fans will always cling tight to their memories of the special people like Lynch and the special way they made them feel whenever they visited the rink.
For all that and more, thank you Budd.